I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
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Published February 5th 2018
It is a warm afternoon and most of the birds that I can hear are sheltering from the sun in the tree-tops and bushes. The distinct peeping call of an Adelaide rosella catches my attention and I use the long lens to scan the crown of a nearby eucalypt. The bird is deep in shadow but I manage to capture a half decent image.
I am strolling along the Soldiers Memorial Walk in the lovely little hills town of Houghton, just fifteen minutes drive from the north-eastern suburb of Tea Tree Gully. This charming little hamlet is simply a collection of picturesque homes set around a village square that boasts a well kept green and memorial to men from the local area who fell in battle.
The well maintained cemetery and the trail I have followed are situated at opposite ends of the village. Several roads leading out of Houghton pass through open bush and cleared grazing land providing a wide range of wildlife habitats.
Imposing red gums and native bushes, such as acacias and grevilleas, line the trail which follows a small creek. There is also a smattering of introduced trees and well-kept lawns, several of which back on to the track. In one tree a young magpie, still sporting its juvenile flecked grey plumage, sits and warbles at me as I pass by. And a dozen paces further on I watch a tethered sheep doing a wonderful impersonation of a lawnmower.
After completing the Soldiers Trail which only takes around twenty minutes, I walk up through the township to the cemetery. There are honeyeaters feeding in the gardens and I can hear finches chattering in the undergrowth surrounding a lovely stone church.
Reading the inscriptions on tombstones always gives one a sense of history and I wonder about the changes this region has gone through over the last couple of centuries. While I read, a pair of blackbirds and several wagtails forage in the gravel between the grave sites. Later I catch sight of a grey fantail in the eucalypts that border the cemetery.
I have spent a fascinating couple of hours in Houghton and it is with some reluctance that I climb back into the car and drive back to the main road and a well-deserved bite to eat. Houghton is a residential village without shops or even a hotel but refreshments are never far away in the hills. On my way back down to the city along the North East Road ,I drop into Newmans Nursery to look for some plants and sample one of their rather exquisite afternoon teas.